HABIB Jalib once composed a limerick that mocked the tendency in Pakistan to add the honorific ‘shaheed’ (martyr) to anyone killed in political violence. However, if there are those who truly deserve the title, they include the unsung heroes of Pakistan’s bomb disposal squads. On Friday, Inspector Hukam Khan entered the ranks of such heroes when he was killed as he attempted to defuse a bomb. The bomb was one of the two killing and maiming devices that had been planted on a roadside near Khyber Agency. Hukam Khan had already disabled one bomb and was in the process of dismantling the other when the terrorists who had planted the devices detonated it by remote control. Hukam Khan, who had joined the squad as a low-paid constable in 1978, had defused countless such devices. Despite its risky nature, he was committed to his job and had risen to his rank as bomb disposal squad inspector.
The psychological pressure on the men of the disposal squad is immense as they begin to defuse a bomb to save others from death and injury. Given the fact that such killing tools planted by terrorists are discovered every day, the disposal squad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — which has been the worst-hit province in the war against militancy — has managed to deactivate them with remarkable professionalism. However, its task is getting deadlier by the day — eight of the men have died
while defusing lethal devices. Under-resourced and understaffed, the squad in the province has approximately 40 members. They are not in possession of jammers to disrupt signals, protective suits or other necessary gear. They do
not even have sufficient fuel for vehicles. Meanwhile, the insurgents are improving their skills and assembling more sophisticated devices. It will be a losing battle unless the squad’s training and resources keep pace with the terrorists’ technology.